Leprous – Aphelion (Album Review)

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The year 2020 could be proclaimed as the year of Aphelion. Representing the point of an object’s orbit when it is furthest away from the sun, it’s truly an album title whose time has come. Even as we continue moving through the uncertainty of 2021, Leprous’ own “Aphelion” can’t arrive too soon, providing a balm for these troubled times. As a band who have always embraced change throughout their seven-album discography, Leprous took an even bigger leap on their sixth album “Pitfalls.” “Aphelion” sees the band continuing this evolution, delivering a riveting collection of songs which will likely be embraced by the majority of their ever-growing audience. From symphonic strings to crunching guitars, wailing falsetto to even a touch of growl, Leprous once again serves up an addictive combo, increasingly hard to put down once you’re sucked in.

“Aphelion” is by no means a concept album. To the contrary, many of the songs were recorded separately in different studios at various times and then collated onto one album. Originally the band had even planned to just release an EP until it grew into a lengthier proposition. Despite this circuitous approach, the majority of the album sustains a consistent level of quality and engagement. We begin with “Running Low”, a deliciously dramatic opener, highlighting the band’s skill at ever-changing dynamics over the course of a song. Einar Solberg’s vocals alone display the extreme range of emotions available. Occupying a different aspect of his vocal range on each verse, Solberg hits his listener’s emotions with a new arrow from his quiver at every turn. The band follows suit, Baard Kolstad’s thundering drums and Raphael Weinroth-Browne’s intense cello build the tension until the whole band kicks in on the engaging chorus. The song carries a searing impact and the album has only just begun.

“Out of Here” offers a brief respite with its dreamy opening sequence and Solberg’s sing-songy melody until it’s given the Leprous treatment for the second half, awakening the senses with staccato hits. “Silhouette” is even more successful, a driving synth bass sound underneath sweeping strings leading up to a killer chorus: “The silhouette as strong as ever, a ghost of my own making, trapped inside, left to burn.” At under 4 minutes, it’s a compact piece that remains emblazoned on the listener’s psyche. “All the Moments” is less direct in its development, beginning with a classic-rock vibe via slide guitar, then drifting afloat a hypnotic verse into a gorgeous chorus but then turning a drastically different corner with an extended middle section of balladry. It’s one more example of Leprous’ unpredictability and a reason why their music demands attentive engagement.

Although “Aphelion” is a grouping of mostly disparate tracks, great care has been taken towards maximizing their impact with regards to the sequencing flow. “Have You Ever?” is perhaps the only song which doesn’t have at least one explosive moment in it, but it enters at just the right place to offset what comes before and after it. Thus, its warm and somewhat jaunty ponderings are welcomingly embraced until the guitars and Kolstad’s drums kick in on subsequent “The Silent Revelation” which sports another winning chorus. Even here, there are extended sections of falsetto crooning, an aspect which may turn off their prog metal fans despite the harder-hitting moments. “The Shadow Side” continues more of the same – heavy string accompaniment, lots of mellow inward introspective interludes and yet still some angst and fire in the chorus, this time indulging in a guitar solo for added color.

As many are aware, the main thrust of the lyrics on “Aphelion” and previous album “Pitfalls” has revolved around Solberg’s grappling with anxiety and depression, adding to the intensity delivered by the music. The resulting impact is cathartic for not only the artist but also for the audience as a collective reckoning takes place. “On Hold” takes almost a diary-like accounting of the confusion, frustration and hopelessness that is encountered in this terrain: “My life is on hold until I’ve figured out this maze.” While a little long in the delivery – being the lengthiest track on the album – it ultimately culminates in an emotional crescendo.

“Aphelion” Album Artwork

Initial stand-alone single “Castaway Angels” was offered as a lifeline at the end of 2020. While a full album was not announced at the time, it was a welcome gift – a tender, yearning ballad with plenty of acoustic guitar, piano, strings and passion from Solberg alternating between his powerful falsetto and main voice. Such was the majestic beauty of the song that it’s impossible not to call it a highlight of “Aphelion” but happily several other peak moments also match or surpass its grandeur. Being the penultimate song in the running order, “Castaway Angels” craftily segues into “Nighttime Disguise”, beginning in the same key and with a similar attack on the guitar. However, this seven-minute sprawling epic piece may just be the most breathtaking offering on the album, encapsulating everything that Leprous is about. Careening from hard-hitting to crooning to hypnotic to unleashed, this dark Disguise is a brilliant way to end the album, leaving the listener breathless. Even a brass quartet blares overtop the mix as Solberg’s growls reign below. What’s more, the song was “directed” by a core group of Leprous fans who witnessed – and to some extent, guided – the writing process in real-time via the internet. It’s a remarkable gesture of engagement from the band which paid off impressively.

The impact of the Weinroth-Browne’s and Chris Baum’s strings throughout the album can’t be overstated, nor the production which ties it all together. And yet underneath it is still Leprous, that ever-evolving collective entity which continues to offer new shades, tones and hues. Truly, the world needs bands like Leprous who engage, animate and challenge their audience as we wrestle with this time of “Aphelion”.

Released by: Inside Out Music / Sony Music
Released on: August 27th, 2021
Genre: Progressive Rock

Musicians: 

  • Einar Solberg / Vocals, keys
  • Tor Oddmund Suhrke / Guitars
  • Robin Ognedal / Guitars
  • Simen Børven / Bass
  • Baard Kolstad / Drums

Aphelion” Track-listing:

1. Running Low
2. Out Of Here
3. Silhouette
4. All The Moments
5. Have You Ever?
6. The Silent Revelation
7. The Shadow Side
8. On Hold
9. Castaway Angels
10. Nighttime Disguise

9.0 Excellent

Seventh album “Aphelion” sees Leprous continuing to refine the newer dimensions of their sound while delivering powerfully emotional material. They continue to evolve away from easy categorization, even as their songwriting and arrangements tug ever stronger at their listeners’ ears and hearts. With a collection as powerful as this, it doesn’t matter how you define it. This is Leprous.

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 10
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